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5 Concrete Ways To Recover From A Foul Up At Work

So, you made a mistake on the job. Haven't we all? It is not the end of the world. Here's how to deal and recover from a major workplace error.

Originally Published Dec. 15, 2016.

So, you made a mistake on the job. Haven’t we all? It is not the end of the world. When mistakes are made or plans fail, it is how you recover that drives the outcome.

As a learning and development consultant, I regularly share tips and tools for professional success with my clients, and this is a topic that comes up often. How can one recover from a major error in the workplace?

Well, it’s simple. We can recover, no matter the size of the slip-up. Below are my five sure-fire tips to get you on the road to recovery:

Own it

Never hide behind a mistake. Instead, always get in front of it. Accountability is always key. Taking responsibility might be painful and uncomfortable at first, but you will increase your respect factor ten-fold, by simply being honest. People may discover that, in the face of a challenging situation, you are honest, reliable, and dedicated to the cause. Nobody is perfect, but try to avoid redirecting the blame to someone else. If it is your mistake, own the issue. Rather than comparing your blunder to those that other colleagues have made, just be available. Let people know that you are ready to take responsibility to work toward a resolution.

Learn from it

It’s more than just coming up with a solution for this mistake; it is about learning from it and creating strategies to prevent the mistake from occurring again. Key employees don’t simply react — they respond proactively. If all you ever do is react, someone can replace you. Even a mistake creates an opportunity to learn and demonstrate that newfound knowledge by creating and recommending solutions.

Communicate intentionally and strategically

Think about politicians or celebrities in the face of scandal. Many face the public with a skillfully crafted acknowledgment of wrongdoing, coupled with language that evokes human emotion. While I certainly do not have a public relations professional at my beck-and-call to address responses to my missteps, I believe in the power of sending the right message with my words and tone. So, this tip is simple: Be very intentional and careful with your words. You want to position yourself as trustworthy and dependable. If you respond to the error with a lie, empty promises, or insincere words, it will be two times as hard for you to recover and rebuild trust, when the truth is discovered.

Use your connections

So, you’re not a celebrity, and you don’t have a paid entourage that can get behind you and boost your confidence a bit. You are, however, a business professional with an extended network of power behind you. Sincerely communicate with your department, colleagues, and those within your network, who may be impacted by the error. Lean on your inner circle for support, and align yourself with people that others trust.

Get over it!

Let’s be 100% honest: every one of us has made mistakes. Once we have done what we feel is necessary to begin the recovery process, we have to forgive ourselves, and let it go. I have seen colleagues beat themselves up for weeks, months, and sometimes years over one mistake. What seems like a big deal today, may not seem as bad tomorrow. If it does seem as bad tomorrow, continue to work to rebuild the trust that may have been damaged as a result of the error. Never allow the error to consume you.

The recipe for recovery should always include accountability, effective communication, and action. Recovery is not always easy. It’s not always instant, but if managed appropriately, recovering from a mistake is an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop.

Written by Kimberly A. Ferguson for Boss Network

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